When did you take up cheesemaking and why?
I received from my wife Tina a surprise birthday present to attend Graham’s cheese making course in Melbourne with my brother Ben in August 2014. I’m from Newcastle, so it included a trip away for the weekend which was very generous and very much appreciated!
What was the first batch of cheese you made by yourself? How did you feel about the experience and how did the cheese turn out? Can you compare your experience between then and now?
I got home from the course, ordered a cheese making kit from Graham, and once I received it I got straight into making a batch of Camembert. It all went to plan, no dramas whatsoever, and several weeks later it got cleaned up by the family who said it was the best they’d had and could I make some more? At the time I was a bit uncertain as to how my cheeses would turn out, but soon realised that if you follow given instructions it’s really not too hard to produce some fantastic cheese.
It’s been a year now since I started making cheese and with practice comes confidence. I know how my kit works, am beginning to develop a solid understanding of the cheese making process, and no longer sweat the small stuff.
What sort of cheeses (& dairy products) do you make, how many times have you made cheese, why do you like making cheese and how often do you make it?
I’ve mainly made Greek feta, Camembert, Cheddar and Caerphilly. I’ve pretty much given away the pressed cheeses now – they’re great fun to make but I get a much bigger bang for my buck with the ‘softer’ high yield cheeses (I mainly use organic milk – $$$). I make feta that gets marinated with garlic and rosemary almost weekly as I have a family that can’t get enough of it – I can barely keep up with demand (there are 6 of us). Camembert is also really popular, and I’ve recently started making Crottin and have had a go at St Marcellin. Blues are on the horizon…
What has been some interesting or rewarding cheesemaking experience/s
I made a saffron infused Caerphilly which looked stunning, but sadly didn’t really blow us away with its flavour. It wasn’t bad, and it did get scoffed, it’s just not a cheese I’d make again. Never mind! It was fun to make and something you don’t see in the shops (at least not in Newcastle).
What has been your biggest cheesemaking challenge/s
The first one was transporting all of the cheeses I made at Graham’s course back to Newcastle… Apart from that, keeping up with demand!
What is your favourite cheese(s) to make?
Mould ripened – I know it’s going to happen, but I still breathe a sigh of relief when the mould begins to show. The end product is also so good, and a real indulgence. Too bad they get cleaned up so quickly!
What is your advice to anyone looking to starting out on a cheesemaking journey?
Get an intensive, informative, hands-on course under your belt (you know what I’m saying here). Try new cheeses and have a go at reproducing the styles you like. It’s really rewarding when you produce your own great tasting cheese based on a recognised type. Get inspired by visiting cheese shops. We visited Neal’s Yard Dairy in London Borough Markets this year – it was fantastic (see below)! Spent a fortune though…Keep making cheese!